Sunday, April 21, 2019

The Fulfillment of Scriptures

I’m impressed by the way that Jesus emphasized the scriptures even in the final days of His life—He was determined to see that the scriptures which had prophesied of the events surrounding His death be fulfilled.  As He taught His apostles on the night of the Passover feast, He said to them, “I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me” (John 13:18).  He knew the events related to Judas’s betrayal had been foretold in the scriptures.  Later that night as He continued to teach them He prayed to the Father, “While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled” (John 17:12).  Again His thoughts were turned to the fulfillment of the scriptures.  After He then went into the garden and emerged with the apostles, He was met by Judas and the rulers who came to arrest Him.  When Peter drew his sword in defense, Jesus responded, “Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?” (Matt. 26:52-54)  Again, even in this moment after He had already suffered so much and was being unjustly taken, His concern was that the scriptures be fulfilled.  He then spoke to those arresting Him emphasizing the scriptures again: “I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and ye took me not: but the scriptures must be fulfilled” (Mark 14:49).  That Jesus would focus so much on the fulfillment of the scriptures in these most important moments of all time surely indicates the focus we too should have on the scriptures and the fulfillment of their prophecies. 

Saturday, April 20, 2019

The Coming and Resurrection of Christ

After King Benjamin’s marvelous sermon on the Savior, the people were so moved that nearly all of them entered into a covenant to take upon themselves the name of Christ.  Mormon recorded that the names of the people were taken down: “King Benjamin thought it was expedient, after having finished speaking to the people, that he should take the names of all those who had entered into a covenant with God to keep his commandments. And it came to pass that there was not one soul, except it were little children, but who had entered into the covenant and had taken upon them the name of Christ” (Mosiah 6:1-2).  The small aside that little children did not enter into the covenant actually turned out to be significant.  This happened in about 124 B.C., and it marked the beginning of the reign of Mosiah.  At some point in the next 24 years, these who were children at the time of King Benjamin’s speech became the cause of much trouble: “Now it came to pass that there were many of the rising generation that could not understand the words of king Benjamin, being little children at the time he spake unto his people; and they did not believe the tradition of their fathers.”  They apparently did not believe the words of their parents as they recounted King Benjamin’s testimony, and therefore “they did not believe what had been said concerning the resurrection of the dead, neither did they believe concerning the coming of Christ.”  The unbelief of those two facts—the resurrection and coming of Christ, led to their general unbelief and hardened hearts (Mosiah 26:1-3).                     

Friday, April 19, 2019

Things Out of Place

When I obtained my second missionary companion in France I changed apartments but I didn’t leave the city I was in.  So the two of us took our stuff to a very small and very dirty apartment at the top of a narrow apartment complex that seemed to be sort of jammed into the roof of the building.  There was barely room for the two of us, and the apartment was filthy from the previous missionaries.  My new companion insisted that we clean it up and organize it immediately rather than to wait for some other day to get things in order there.  I remember that he made a statement—I think he said it was words of wisdom from his uncle—about the fact that if you leave something in a certain place (where it really doesn’t belong) for a couple of days, there is a high probability that the thing will simply stay there indefinitely and we will stop even noticing it.  In other words, if we don’t quickly take care of something that is out of order, we usually no longer even see that it is out of place.  I thought of this recently at work when I did just that—I got a replacement phone and I set my old phone on the floor next to my desk, thinking I’d take care of that later.  It sat there on the floor for months—and I looked at it every day without even seeing it—before I finally took the 30 seconds to put it away in a closet.  I believe that it is the same way with things that we need to take care of spiritually in our lives: it is so much easier to correct our course of action the day we start going awry.  The longer we wait to repent for some small bad habit, the less likely it is that after a while we will even see anything wrong with what we once knew was in deed out of place in our lives. 

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Alma and Mosiah

Yesterday my wife pointed out the unique relationship in the Book of Mormon between Mosiah (son of Benjamin) and Alma (the Elder).  These two seemed to have led the people in a combined sort of way, with Mosiah as the governmental leader and Alma as the spiritual leader, though Mosiah still had a leadership role spiritually for the people.  The way that they led the people together showed an incredible unity and devoted purpose to keeping the commandments of God and helping the people to do so as well.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Humiliation by the Soldiers

I don’t know that I have ever really paid attention to what happened to the Savior after Pilate delivered Him to be crucified and before He actually went up to Calvary.  But Matthew’s account records for us the terrible humiliation He was given to suffer through.  After scourging Him, Pilate delivered Jesus over to the soldiers to be crucified, and they clearly knew that He was thought by some to be the king of the Jews and used this fact to mock Him.  Matthew recorded, “Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers. And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe.  And when they had plaited a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head” (Matt. 27:27-30).  So they took Him in some area in front of a lot of people (“a whole band of soldiers”) and then pretended to dress Him up like a king.  They took off His clothes, put a pretend royal robe on Him, placed a crown of thorns on His head, and put a reed in his hand as if it were a royal staff.  Then, in front of this large crowd, these soldiers pretended to worship Him like He was a king: they bowed down before Him and made fun of Him as the king of the Jews.  After this pretended reverence, they spit on Him and smote Him with the reed they had just placed in His hand.  This terrible cruelty is all the more remarkable because the Savior had the power to stop it but didn’t.  He did not have to suffer this complete humiliation before the people, but He did as part of His great offering.  He suffered through this unbelievable treatment, as a completely innocent victim, without reviling or seeking to defend Himself.  He was indeed a perfect mild Lamb taken to the slaughter who opened not His mouth. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

A Memorial of Faith

I was shocked along with the rest of the world yesterday to see Notre-Dame de Paris on fire.  I last visited it about two years ago, and I remember the awe I felt by the height alone as I walked through it and gazed up the 850 year old building.  What impressed me most I think was imagining the faith and determination of those who built it.  To me it is an engineering marvel, and to think that it was done without any of the modern equipment is amazing.  Who knows how many thousands of the French people from 1160 – 1260 labored to raise this incredible edifice.  No matter what kind of corruption doubtless existed then among some religious leaders at the time, surely there was much sincere faith put into that building by the masses who constructed it.  Though those who worked on it remain nameless today, the building has stood through the centuries as a testament to the Christian faith. 

Monday, April 15, 2019

Hardened Hearts of Ammonihah

One of the themes of the words of Alma to the people of Ammonihah in Alma 12 was the danger of hardening one’s heart against the Lord.  Alma taught the consequences of having a hardened heart, saying, “And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word….  And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction.”  He taught how the judgment would be for those you have a hardened heart: “Then if our hearts have been hardened, yea, if we have hardened our hearts against the word, insomuch that it has not been found in us, then will our state be awful, for then we shall be condemned.”  He quoted the words of the Lord, saying, “And whosoever will harden his heart and will do iniquity, behold, I swear in my wrath that he shall not enter into my rest.”  And then to make sure the people understood, he emphasized again the eternal consequences of having a hardened heart: “And now, my brethren, behold I say unto you, that if ye will harden your hearts ye shall not enter into the rest of the Lord; therefore your iniquity provoketh him that he sendeth down his wrath upon you as in the first provocation, yea, according to his word in the last provocation as well as the first, to the everlasting destruction of your souls” (v9-10,13,35-36).  This people clearly had hardened their hearts against Alma and against the word of the Lord, and they had indeed lost their knowledge of the Lord because of it and were headed for spiritual destruction.  And most of them did not repent, even after Alma and Amulek’s preachings, and when they committed their awful acts against the believers, the Spirit again confirmed these teachings of Alma: “He doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day” (Alma 14:11).  It was their hardened hearts that ultimately led to their eternal condemnation. 

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Rely on this Redeemer

Shortly after leaving Jerusalem, Lehi taught his family about the coming of the Messiah.  Nephi wrote about his father’s teachings in these words: “Wherefore, all mankind were in a lost and in a fallen state, and ever would be save they should rely on this Redeemer” (1 Nephi 10:6).  I think in the past I have generally considered this verse as relating to the way that Christ saves us from the death brought by the Fall of Adam and from an eternal separation with our Father in Heaven.  In other words, I’ve thought of it as speaking of how Christ will in the distant future allow us to overcome physical death as well as return to our Father in Heaven of the judgment.  But perhaps here the message is more relevant to us today than that, for we don’t just need Christ so we can be rescued from an endless state of misery in the next life.  We need the Savior’s help in our problems now, and so to receive that aide we must “rely on this Redeemer.”     

Saturday, April 13, 2019

The Blessings Abraham Sought

While still in Ur of the Chaldees, Abraham expressed his deepest desires in these terms: “desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge, and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers” (Abraham 1:2).  I see in this at least six specific desires that he had: (1) to increase in knowledge, (2) to increase in righteousness, (3) to be a father, (4) to be a prince of peace, (5) the receive instructions of the Lord, and (6) to keep God’s commandments.  Throughout the rest of his life he surely did obtain these desires of his heart.  He did gain great knowledge as evidenced in the rest of the Book of Abraham as he learned about God’s residence near Kolob, the premortal existence, the Savior’s mission, and much more.  He surely increased in righteousness as he learned to do everything the Lord asked him to and go wherever he was asked, from Canaan to Egypt.  He certainly became a father of many nations through Ishmael and Isaac, and he was a peacemaker in Canaan when he was there among other people.  Abraham received many instructions from the Lord about where to go and what to do, including the instruction to offer up Isaac as a sacrifice.  And he followed those instructions, keeping all the commandments of God that he received.  Abraham sought the blessings of the Lord earnestly and he obtained them as he strove to live so that those blessings could be granted. 

Friday, April 12, 2019

Cry After Knowledge

I was moved today as I pondered this passage in Proverbs: “So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God” (Proverbs 2:2-5).  We shouldn’t just desire knowledge, but should cry out for it; we should seek for it as if it were silver; we should search for knowledge as if it were a hidden treasure, for it is.  When we desire knowledge that much that we will search after it with that kind of zeal and desire, then we shall indeed “find the knowledge of God.”  The implicit teaching I think here is that we should desire knowledge more than we seek for worldly riches; we should yearn for understanding more than we go after physical possessions.  I wonder if Abinadi wasn’t quoting this passage when he told the priests of Noah: “Ye have not applied your hearts to understanding; therefore, ye have not been wise” (Mosiah 12:27).  These priests had indeed chosen riches and the things of the world the wisdom and knowledge of God.